FROM THE SALINE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 63CV-14-352-2]
HONORABLE GARY ARNOLD, JUDGE
ON DIRECT APPEAL; AFFIRMED ON CROSS-APPEAL.
Young & Houston, PLLC, by: Brent Houston, for appellant.
Eichenbaum Liles P.A., by: Christopher O. Parker, for
DAN KEMP, Chief Justice
City of Benton (the "City"), appeals from an award
of attorneys' fees to appellee, Alcoa Road Storage, Inc.
("Alcoa"), in a judgment arising from a
condemnation proceeding. For reversal, the City contends that
the circuit court erred because there is no statutory
authority for awarding attorneys' fees against a
municipality in a condemnation proceeding. Alcoa
cross-appeals the denial of its request for payment of
expert-witness fees. Specifically, Alcoa contends that the
circuit court erred in finding that expert-witness fees
incurred by a landowner to establish the calculation of its
just compensation were not "costs occasioned by the
assessment" pursuant to Arkansas Code Annotated section
18-15-307(c) (Repl. 2015). We reverse the award of
attorneys' fees and affirm the denial of expert-witness
25, 2014, the City filed a complaint seeking to take real
property belonging to Alcoa by eminent domain pursuant to
Arkansas Code Annotated section 18-15-201 and Arkansas Code
Annotated sections 18-15-301 et seq. The circuit court
entered an ex parte order of possession and directed the City
to deposit $197, 100 into the registry of the court. Alcoa
answered and requested a jury trial. The circuit court held a
jury trial, and on June 24, 2015, the jury returned a verdict
awarding Alcoa $317, 550. Thereafter, Alcoa filed a motion for
assessment of expert-witness fees in the amount of $22,
314.76 and attorneys' fees in the amount of $9, 285.39.
The circuit court awarded attorneys' fees but denied the
motion for expert-witness fees.
begin with a brief overview of the law governing the
eminent-domain power of municipalities. In 1875, the General
Assembly enacted Act I, a comprehensive act concerning the
incorporation, organization, and government of municipal
corporations. The Act conferred upon municipal corporations
the power of eminent domain for the construction of certain
improvements and for other lawful purposes, and it provided
for compensation to the owners of the property taken.
See Act of Mar. 9, 1875, No. 1, §§ 74- 75,
1874-75 Ark. Acts 1, 31-32, now codified as Ark. Code Ann.
§§ 18-15-301 to -307.
valuation procedure for property sought to be condemned is
called an "assessment." The "inquiry into and
assessment of compensation" is made by a jury.
See Ark. Code Ann. § 18-15-304. "As soon
as the amount of compensation that may be due to the owners
of the property taken . . . shall have been ascertained by
the jury, the court shall make such order as to its payment
or deposit." Id. § 18-15-307(a).
issues in this case require us to construe section
18-15-307(c), which states, "The costs occasioned by the
assessment shall be paid by the corporation, and, as to the
other costs which may arise, they shall be charged or taxed
as the court may direct." On appeal, we must determine
whether the phrase "costs occasioned by the
assessment" includes attorneys' fees. On
cross-appeal, we must determine whether the phrase includes
cardinal rule of statutory construction is to effectuate the
legislative will. E.g., Roeder v. United
States, 2014 Ark. 156, 432 S.W.3d 627. In considering
the meaning of a statute, we construe it just as it reads,
giving the words their ordinary and usually accepted meaning
in common language. E.g., Woodrome v.
Daniels, 2010 Ark. 244, 370 S.W.3d 190. When the
language of the statute is plain and unambiguous, conveying a
clear and definite meaning, we need not resort to the rules
of statutory construction. E.g., Raymond James
Fin. Servs., Inc., 373 Ark. 79, 281 S.W.3d 721 (2008).
City contends that "costs occasioned by the assessment,
" as used in Arkansas Code Annotated section
18-15-307(c), does not encompass attorneys' fees and
expert-witness fees. We agree with the City that the circuit
court erred in awarding attorneys' fees to Alcoa because
there is no statutory authority for awarding attorneys'
fees against a municipality in a condemnation proceeding. The
American rule, which is observed in Arkansas, is that
attorneys' fees are not chargeable as costs in litigation
unless specifically permitted by statute. Love v.
Smackover Sch. Dist., 329 Ark. 4, 946 S.W.2d 676 (1997)
(citing Chrisco v. Sun Indus., Inc., 304 Ark. 227,
800 S.W.2d 717 (1990)). Arkansas has followed this common-law
rule since before the Civil War. Med. Liability Mut. Ins.
Co. v. Alan Curtis Enters., 373 Ark. 525, 285 S.W.3d 233
(2008) (citing Temple v. Lawson, 19 Ark. 148
(1857)). Moreover, this court has squarely rejected the
argument that attorneys' fees are a component of just
compensation. See Ellis v. Ark. State Highway
Comm'n, 2010 Ark. 196, 363 S.W.3d 321; Ark.
State Highway Comm'n v. Johnson, 300 Ark. 454, 780
S.W.2d 326 (1989).
the statute provides for "costs occasioned by the
assessment." The terms "costs" or
"expenses" when used in a statute do not ordinarily
include attorneys' fees. Ark. Dep't of Human
Servs. v. Kistler, 320 Ark. 501, 898 S.W.2d 32 (1995);
State v. McLeod, 318 Ark. 781, 888 S.W.2d 639
(1994). Because attorneys' fees are not expressly
provided for in section 18-15-307(c), we reverse the circuit
court's award of attorneys' fees.
cross-appeal, Alcoa contends that the circuit court erred in
finding that expert-witness fees incurred by a landowner to
establish the calculation of its just compensation are not
"costs occasioned by the assessment" pursuant ...